Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The Builders

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James Howard

James Howard and the Howard Family were the most successful steamboat builders in American history, constructing such classic vessels as the John W. Cannon and the J. M. White (Ill.).

James Howard built his first hull at the age of 19 and established his boatyard in Jeffersonville, Indiana in 1834. He and his brother Daniel began building complete boats in the 1850's, supplying boats for all aspects of the burgeoning steamboat age. Their fame became legendary, and by 1890, half of the steamboats on the western rivers were built by the Howards.

The Howard boatyard operated until 1940, when it was taken over by the U. S. Navy, and later became Jeffboat. From the Hyperion in 1834 to the Frank Costanzo in 1940, 550 Howard vessels were launched onto the inland waters of America, and the name of James Howard was forever etched into American river history.

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